Nestled on the serene banks of the Achankovil River in the quaint village of Kandiyoor near Mavelikkara in Kerala, the Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple stands as a testament to centuries of devotion, history, and architectural brilliance. This ancient Shiva temple, shrouded in legends and rich cultural heritage, holds a unique place in the heart of Kerala.
Legends and Significance:
Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple is steeped in legends, and it is considered one of the 108 great Shiva temples of ancient Kerala, believed to have been consecrated by Lord Parashurama himself. One legend narrates the story of Rishi Mrikandu, who found an idol of Lord Shiva in the Kirathamoorthy form while bathing in the Ganga. Guided by an oracle, he established the temple in Kandiyoor, a name believed to be a corruption of Kandathil.
Another intriguing legend ties the temple to the site where Lord Shiva severed Lord Brahma’s head, earning the name “Kandiyoor” from “Shiva Sri Kantan.” It is also believed that Lord Parasurama played a role in renovating the temple and entrusted tanthrik rights to the Tharananallur family.
Kandiyoor and its temple hold a prominent place in Kerala’s history. An epigraph dating back to A.D. 823 during the reign of Rajasekhara Varman provides evidence of the temple’s early origins. The temple’s establishment was so influential that it marked an era known as “Kandiyoorabdam” until the introduction of Kollavarsham.
Remarkably, the temple’s history suggests that it might have been a Hinayana Buddhist temple at some point. Today, an intriguing relic of this history is said to be a displaced Shiva idol retrieved from nearby paddy fields, now placed near the Mavelikkara Sree Krishna Swamy Temple.
The Kandiyoor inscription (K. E. 393) dated 1218 speaks of the temple’s reconstruction by Rama Kotha Varma of Odanad, attended by dignitaries, including Devadicci Unni, the wife of Ravi Kerala Varma, the King of Venad.
Temple Architecture and Deities:
Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple showcases the magnificent Dravidian temple architecture of Kerala. The temple complex includes a distinctive gopuram, an intricately designed sanctum sanctorum, and a spacious courtyard. The sanctum sanctorum features a two-tiered structure with an east-facing deity, Lord Shiva, known as Kandiyoorappan.
The unique feature of this temple is a platform in front of the sanctum for devotees, reminiscent of the Hoysala style. The temple’s outer wall, measuring 10 feet, is believed to have been constructed by Shiva’s Bhothaganas.
The primary deity, Kandiyoorappan, takes on different forms throughout the day, representing different aspects of Lord Shiva. He is worshipped as Dakshinamoorthy in the morning, Umamaheshwaran in the noon, and Kirathamoorthy in the evening. During sunset, the deity is revered as Vaikatappan, the ruling deity of Vaikom.
The temple complex also houses several sub-deities, including Vishnu, Parvatheesan, Nagaraja and Nagayakshi, Gosala Krishnan, Sastha, Sankaran, Sreekandan, Vadakkumnathan, Annapoomeswary, Ganapathy, Subramanyan, Moola Ganapathy, and Brahma Rakshas. Remarkably, Sankara, Sreekanda, Vadakkumnadha, Parvatheesa, and Mrityunjaya are believed to be forms of Lord Shiva himself.
Festivals at Kandiyoor Mahadeva Temple:
This ancient temple comes alive during its annual festival, a grand celebration steeped in tradition and spirituality.
Annual Temple Festival: Celebrated in the Dhanu month of the Malayalam calendar, it spans several days and includes flag hoisting, special poojas, Annadanam, Pallivetta procession, melam, fireworks, sheeveli, and ends with Arattu.
Flag Hoisting Ceremony (Kodiyettam): Marks the festival’s beginning with colorful decorations.
Poojas and Offerings: Devotees perform special rituals and offer prayers during the festival.
Annadanam: Free meals are provided to devotees and visitors.
Pallivetta: A grand procession featuring caparisoned elephants, music, fireworks, and the sheeveli.
Arattu: The utsava murti of the deity is bathed ritually on the final day, symbolizing purification.
Devotees have the opportunity to make various offerings and perform rituals during the festival, including:
Jaladhara: The pouring of sacred water on the deity’s idol.
Rudrabhishekam: An elaborate ritual involving the offering of bilva leaves and other sacred items to Lord Shiva.
Ksheera Dhara: The pouring of milk on the deity’s idol.
Ganapathy Homam: A fire ritual dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
Bhagavathy Seva: Worship of the goddess Bhagavathy.
Swayamvararchana: A special form of worship.
Shangabhishekam: Anointing the idol with sacred water.
Rektha Pushpanjaly: Offering red flowers to the deity.
Muzhukappu: Decoration of the idol with a veil.
Mrithyunjaya Homam: A fire ritual dedicated to Lord Shiva as the conqueror of death.
Sahasranamarchana: Recitation of sacred names.
Neeranjanam: Offering of light.
Kalbhabhishekam: A ritual involving the consecration of the idol.
Abhishekam: Ritual bathing of the idol.
Mala Charthu: Garland offering.
Adithya Namaskaram: Worship of the Sun god.
Anthi pooja: Final worship of the day.
Choroonu: The first rice-feeding ceremony for children.
Thulabharam: A ritual involving the weighing of an individual against offerings.
Udayada Charthu: Morning worship.
Vidyarambham: The initiation of children into education.
The Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple welcomes devotees and visitors with the following timings: It is open from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in the morning and reopens from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the evening.
How to Reach Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple:
The nearest major airport to Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple is the Trivandrum International Airport (Thiruvananthapuram International Airport), which is approximately 116 kilometers away. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or use other available transportation options to reach the temple.
The temple is conveniently accessible by rail. The nearest railway station is the Mavelikara Railway Station, which is only 3 kilometers away. From the railway station, you can take a taxi or a local transport to reach the temple comfortably.
– If you are traveling by road, the temple is just 1.7 kilometers west of Mavelikara town.
– It is located 8 kilometers from NH47, which you can reach by deviating from Nangarkulangara near Haripad.
– The temple is approximately 9 kilometers from Kayamkulam.
– If you are traveling through MC road, it is nearly 20 kilometers from Tiruvalla, Chengannur, Pandalam, and Adoor.
The temple is well-connected by bus services from various nearby towns and cities in Kerala. You can check the local bus schedules and routes to plan your journey accordingly.
Additionally, the world-famous Chettikulangara Devi Temple is located just 4 kilometers away from Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple, making it convenient for those interested in exploring multiple religious sites in the region.
Kandiyoor Sree Mahadeva Temple transcends time and space, offering solace to the weary soul and insight into Kerala’s spiritual and cultural heritage. This sacred abode, with its intriguing legends, architectural splendor, and diverse deities, invites visitors to explore the depths of faith and history. It stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of devotion in God’s Own Country, Kerala.